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tel,

I don't think we can all agree.



Fair enough.

So, please allow me to clarify:

I think that my garden, designed to just feed me, would be about 40% smaller than a vegan's.  I say this with the idea that about 20% of my diet would be meat - which is more calorically dense.

I wouldn't pick on your ambiguous math if it didn't completely obscure the point you're trying to make.



I think that if anything I ever say is anything less than clear, then I appreciate a call for more clarity.


and while the garden dedicated to just food that you're going to eat might be smaller than a vegan's, you neglect to mention the land dedicated to feed the critters you're eating.



two points:

1)  I think I was attempting to make several points, so I was very specific in attempting to point out that this was just the vegan-ish food for me to eat.  But, of course, you are right, there is much more to this.

2)  I think I then went into a discussion of the land that would produce food for meat animals.

there's a lot more to it.



Yes!  Just the information that is currently known could fill several books.  And the information that is unknown is at least a thousand times greater.

I should have better qualified my statement as a quickie summary.  Good catch!




 
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paul wheaton,

cool.  thanks for the clarification.  I don't think anything you are saying is necessarily false for a given set of conditions, I just don't think what you were saying is always true for all conditions.  it may not have started out like this, but this thread has sort of turned into a discussion of which is better.  your posts seemed to come down on the side of incorporating livestock is better, and I think you're right, in some conditions.

the nutrient density of meat is pretty much undeniable.  but the amount of vegetation a critter has to eat to achieve that nutrient density is substantial.  I don't know how this is going to turn out, but I want to do a quick run down of how much food an animal needs.  since it has come up earlier in the thread, I want to use a cow for this example.

in a brief conversation I had with Joel Salatin, he mentioned that he had, as a goal yet to be achieved, a stocking rate of one animal/acre (keep in mind that Joel is recognized as one of the leaders in the field of pastured meat, if not the leader).  he would prefer to use the unit 365 cow days/acre/year, but that's a bit confusing for somebody unfamiliar with that nomenclature.  he also mentioned that he slaughters animals when they are 18 months old.  that is the oldest an animal can be without the owner having to have it tested for BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis).  I believe that after 18 months, the hanging weight of the animals was around 400 pounds.  that's a lot of beef.  the average amount of beef eaten in the U.S. in 2005 was 66.1 lbs/year or 99.15 lbs/18 months.  so 400 pounds of beef could provide the average beef consumption for just over four people.  those average people are also eating vegetables and other animals (an average of 84.3 lbs/year of chicken).

how many people could one acre in vegetables feed?  I think that calculation is going to be a bit more complicated, but I would bet that it's more than four.  further, their entire nutritional requirements could be provided with only plant food.  I'll leave that estimation to someone else.  things get a lot more complicated when plant food and animal food are being produced on the same land and I don't have the inclination to try that just now, either.  I think the comparison of each separately is instructive, though.

obviously, all these numbers are going to change depending on the geography and climate of the particular land involved and the particular people doing the eating and the particular management used on the land.  the omnivores around here might agree that 66 lbs/year is too much beef, for example.  I won't claim that my numbers are right on, but I think they're close enough to get an idea of how the livestock only end of the spectrum stacks up.  I'll also acknowledge that it is possible to add reasonable amounts of poultry and other grazers to the pasture without reducing the yield of beef.  that further complicates things.

everybody: please point out any errors you see or provide more certain numbers to refine the calculation.

edit: changed 365 cow days/acre to 365 cow days/acre/year.  and that's from the mouth of the man himself, last April.
 
                    
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I think I've read most of Pollan's books, and my favorite one gets very little public attention.  So allow me to plug it:  Second Nature is an examination of the relationships between humans and nature, humans and gardens, and gardens and nature.  He has this idea that a garden is sort of a half way point between "the wild" and "the unnatural" worlds that we humans live between (or think we live between - he goes a long way in deconstructing what he terms the prescribed sacredness of "wilderness" in the modern world - especially america).  It's a really great read, about far more than just gardening.  It uses the seasons of the year for chapter structure, and that makes it especially pleasant for gardeners to read.  So, with the rest of that book in mind:

I think of gardens as 'unnaturally' dense areas of human food, requiring unnaturally dense amounts of nutrient deposits to make them tick.  The native plants in a wild forest operate on the nutrients given by wild animals, lichen, rainwater, leaf and root litter, dead animals of all sizes, etc.  Most native plants have fairly low nutrient requirements (no human hand has been there to help them out - Pollan has another great book about plants using humans for their evolutionary benefit - "The Botany of Desire" - I think it's a movie now?), and this process suits them just fine.  Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of low input native plants to choose from that are also edible.  And, we like to eat more and more interesting stuff than that, especially in temperate climates.

Most food crops, on the other hand, are greedy feeders, and they do best when provided with an abundance of nutrients.  The simplest way to get these nutrients is to manage an "unnaturally" dense population of animals in the same general area that these plants live, utilizing their wastes as plant food, and reaping the rewards of their natural behaviors with the correct timing of animal activity.  Sure, you can carefully compost all of your own poo, and then carefully spread it out among your plants, but you're probably not going to make enough poo to supply all the nutrients for all your plants.  And that's a lot of work, and I'm interested in spending fewer hours of my time spreading my poo, and more hours doing....just about anything else, actually. 

Plus, there are things in abundance in certain animal poos that aren't so abundant in ours (human poo varies quite a bit because our diet varies so much).  Phosphorus is the main one that keeps coming to my mind.  Abundant in bird droppings, essential to healthy plant growth and fruiting in particular.  A flock of chickens on site can provide a continuous and free source.  If you move them around in a "tractor" they'll deposit some where ever your food crops need it (while eating weeds and insects and turning these things we don't eat into food for humans).  You could rely on the droppings of wild birds, but this probably isn't going to be enough to make the greedy things we like to eat happy.  Which leads us to the situation of the "vegan" farm (or rather, vegan farmers) buying bags of bat guano and chicken manure so their stuff will grow well.  Is that "natural?"

There's a rather persistent idea that in order for something to be "natural" humans aren't supposed to meddle with it.  But humans are unavoidably part of the natural world!  Pollan's main point of that book (second nature) is that it's far more destructive to draw a harsh line between the human realm and the natural realm.  It leads to seeing ourselves as standing outside of the natural order, and that is not a true or healthy perspective.  Thinking that we are disconnected from the natural world leads us to plant long rows of the same seed, to rely on pounds per acre as the only way of showing success or failure.  Seeing ourselves as part of nature leads us to mimic how She has been producing food all along - mostly perennial polycultures that are designed for our nutritional benefit, with varying yields of a huge diversity of species. 
 
tel jetson
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a quick addendum: pastured beef contains a whole hell of a lot less fat than feedlot beef, so pastured beef contains fewer calories per weight than feedlot beef.  other vitamins, minerals, cosmic energy are higher, but caloric content is going to play into what percent of a diet beef accounts for.  don't know exactly how that would shake down, but it is certainly going to fudge the numbers at least a little bit.
 
                    
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A cow day, according to "Salad Bar Beef" by Mr. Salatin, is the amount of food an adult cow will eat in a day.  Calves eat less, lactating mothers eat more.  He has equivalents all worked out in his head, so that he knows how many "cow-days" are required for his herd at any given time, even though that number varies a bit from the actual number of animals.  Pastures can support more or less cows depending on the time of year and their general vigor.  Closely monitoring the pasture and the cows is an essential part of this whole process.  That's the truly "intensive" part of the rotational grazing idea. 

I'm pretty sure I watched a video of Joel explaining that his general formula (after 20 years of improving the vigor of his pastures through rotational grazing - he has worked up to this over the years and I know he started with much lower stocking numbers) is a hundred head of cattle on a quarter acre (maybe half an acre? wish I could find that video) for 24 hours (and like he says, all the figures vary seasonally - except for the 24 hour part). 

So, about a hundred cow days are harvested from that quarter acre in that 24 hour period.  To get a 14 day rotation before the next grazing on the original patch occurs, you'd need 3.5 acres?  For a hundred head of cattle?  Which is something like 4000 pounds of meat in 18 months?  Is that right?  I seriously can't do math.  Or think I can't, so therefore I can't.    Someone correct my math, and then do it all again starting with a half acre, please.  It'll hurt my brain too much to start all over again.

Here's a quote from his book:  "If our 50 cow equivalents spend 10 days on 5 acres, we have 500 cow-days divided by 5 acres: we harvest 100 cow-days worth of forage per acre."  This book was written 15 years ago.  Again, he has been (through grazing!) gradually improving the ability of his pastures to support greater numbers of animals for awhile now. 

More complex than "one cow per acre."

Also, he runs pastured chickens on those same acres, eating the grubs that emerge from cow patties after a certain number of days.  So then you have a certain amount of chicken meat and eggs coming from those same 3.5 acres.  No idea what that is, but you get the picture that it's a lot more food potential than just the beef.  If you add dairy cows into the picture, you have about 6 gallons of milk per dairy cow per day coming from those same pastured areas. 

I would like to see some math on vegetarian calories per acre, even if it's overly simplified.  Anyone?  Nuts per acre or something?  I'd really like to know, just for curiosity. 
 
tel jetson
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To get a 14 day rotation before the next grazing on the original patch occurs, you'd need 3.5 acres?



I believe Polyface only does a 14-day rotation early in the growing season when growth is rank.  as in, they try to graze the whole place in 14 days, but then slow way down by reducing the size of the daily paddock.  14 days just isn't enough time for the pasture to recover and grow again in most conditions, even if I've been building soil for the previous twenty years.  they also "graze" at least once by cutting hay off the land for winter feed.  so even if an animal could be fed all growing season by a certain area of land, you would still need quite a bit more to account for the not-growing season.

More complex than "one cow per acre."



much more complex than one cow per acre, but it's easy to reduce it to cows per acre when you look at how much land the herd grazed in a year.  the question Joel was answering was roughly "how many acres per animal?".  his answer was that his goal was one animal per acre, that he hadn't quite gotten there, and that he thought it was a reasonably goal that he would achieve at some point.  I'm paraphrasing, so I've left out Joel's standard "this side of heaven" language.

If you add dairy cows into the picture, you have about 6 gallons of milk per dairy cow per day coming from those same pastured areas.



the milk obtained from a dairy cow comes at the expense of either the cow's body weight or more pasture grazed, the same pasture beef cows graze.  I don't think dairy is going to increase the efficiency in terms of food produced/unit of land.  (by the way, I agree that thinking in terms of maximizing yield/area isn't really a healthy approach, but that's sort of become the premise of the thread and I think it does provide a useful metric for comparisons.)  adding the poultry would increase efficiency because poultry is eating differently than cattle and the two are complementary.  up to a certain threshold, I'm told that adding sheep to the mix won't reduce beef production because they also graze differently than cows, so that could increase the efficiency, too.  but in the end, all of that only accounts for the animal portion of the diet.

I think it's also important to remember that Joel Salatin periodically buys a lot of kelp from Iceland, on the order of a train car of kelp unless his statement was hyperbole.  certainly more responsible than more popular and expedient methods of adding minerals to dirt, but I don't think we should be claiming the animals and pasture polyculture are doing all the work in that particular example.


not really important to the present conversation, but I recall somebody (in this thread or another) saying that there probably aren't any human carnivores.  my cousin stayed with a family in Mongolia for a week or so last year.  as far as my cousin could tell, their community's diet consisted entirely of dairy and meat.  they produced a huge variety of dairy products from maybe six different species, including airag, fermented mare's milk.  he said the stuff was hanging around in big open barrels.  the flies landing in it were a bit off-putting, but he said it was pretty tasty along with everything else he had to eat while he was there.  I guess that's not quite carnivory, but it's pretty close.
 
                    
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Tel - the four people thing.  Grass fed beef for four people per acre per year, is that what your calculations worked out to?  I wasn't quite clear on what that ratio was exactly.  I still think that's a very low ball number.  But - I'm biased, obviously.   

365 cow days/acre/year

  Ok....further complicating this is that a calf is going to spend the first half of his life eating far less than the second half. 

And yes, the statistic Tel found about beef consumption sounds high to me.  I think that works out to five and half quarter-pound hamburgers a week.  That's about four to five times the amount of beef I eat a week, but - I'm sure a whole lot of people eat that amount.  That's not what I'd call a sustainable diet. 

The land Joel is farming was in a pretty degraded state when he started doing his thing there.  He advocates buying kelp and the like in the beginning, to bring up fertility.  I don't think he intends to buy kelp indefinitely, but I could be wrong.  A train car of kelp for 500 acres isn't really all that much, though, especially compared to how much nitrogen he would have to come up with without the animals.  He has a few equations for the monetary value of cow dung - if the nutrients are captured properly.  Large concentrations of poo can't be absorbed/decomposed quickly enough and a whole bunch of the potential soil building stuff evaporates. 

A farm without animals certainly isn't going to need fewer outside inputs than one with animals, I think we can agree on that.

Yeah, I knew was grossly over simplifying the grazing equation.  Hence all the question marks.  Mostly to avoid further complicating the math.    I invite someone with more of that sort of brain to do a way better job.  I started trying to figure out the amount of calories 50 dairy cows produces in a month, and what percentage of dietary calories that would provide for so many people, and I gave up.  Anyone?  I for one think that milk is a more efficient food than meat. 

Back to the as yet ignored vegetarian equation.  I think nut trees are the best option for comparison.  Few plant foods come close to the density of calories and fat found in nuts.  Chestnuts are even starchy.  Perennial grain might be a good option too.  To be fair, we'd have to admit that the harvest of the trees varies from year to year, just like the forage available seasonally (but probably not so much annually) in a pasture.  Except that, I think anyway, most nuts have mast years (really awesomely heavy yields) and then really not awesome years.  So some kind of average yield is needed (like the 365 cow days a year figure).  I'm sure there are statistics out there!  It's also complicated to figure - I guess we'll use figures for mature healthy trees.  What's the understory and how many calories does it/they produce?  Maybe just the nut tree canopy would be a good start.  Also should attempt to factor in where the fertility inputs are going to come from.  Mulching nut trees with their own nut shells goes a long way, I hear.  Like returning straw to the field. 

It'd be cool if a vegetarian did this, that way the data calculations will be evenly biased.   
 
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marina phillips wrote:
I would like to see some math on vegetarian calories per acre, even if it's overly simplified.  Anyone?  Nuts per acre or something?  I'd really like to know, just for curiosity. 



A wheat field might give about 1.25 tons per acre each year, which means 4.4 million Calories or so. The 3000 pounds of beef produced on an acre of pasture would be roughly 3.7 million Calories. To the precision of these calculations, the two are about the same.

My general impression is that the beef ranch would tend to consume more water, and the wheat field, more petroleum.

tel wrote:I recall somebody (in this thread or another) saying that there probably aren't any human carnivores.  my cousin stayed with a family in Mongolia for a week or so last year.  as far as my cousin could tell, their community's diet consisted entirely of dairy and meat. 



Aleut and Masai are two favorite examples cited by Weston Price afficionadoes. The Masai, oddly enough, traditionally use a bitter herb in their cuisine, despite almost all of their calories coming from cattle. Recently they have used this herb much less, and developed more heart disease; scientists think it might have to do with saponins in the herb either moderating fat digestion or acting directly as hormone analogues (cf. fenugreek saponins as galactogogue).

Edit: fixed units
 
tel jetson
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Tel - the four people thing.  Grass fed beef for four people per acre per year, is that what your calculations worked out to?  I wasn't quite clear on what that ratio was exactly.  I still think that's a very low ball number.  But - I'm biased, obviously.



yeah, that's what I figured.  but that was using the 2005 average U.S. beef consumption of 66.1 lbs/person/year, which is probably higher than most folks would advocate.  for 18 months, the slaughter age of Joel's cows, that works out to 99.15 lbs/person.

I think that works out to five and half quarter-pound hamburgers a week.



that's what I get, too.  cheesus, I had no idea folks were eating that much beef.  let's go ahead and use Marina's consumption and cut that by three quarters.  now we've got sixteen people's beef ration on an acre.  that's just over .045 lbs/day.  at 871 Calories/lb (from USDA's food lab entry for ground grass-fed beef), that's just over 39.4 Calories/day from beef.  Calories probably aren't the best metric in this case, but based on reading cereal boxes as a pup, I think 2000 Calories/day is pretty average, so that's a pretty small percentage of the energy in a diet.  that leaves room for either a lot of plant or animal fat or a lot of plant carbohydrate.

getting too late.  going to bed.

(I'm using the common notation "Calories" for the technically correct "kilocalories".  the capital c, you see.)
 
                        
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http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2010/01/masai-use-of-herbs.html

In general there is a gradient of proportions of vegetables/plant materials consumed with distance from the equator-- the eskimos being most nearly carnivorous.  They do eat plant foods in the form of stomach contents from animals, etc. and the animals they eat are mostly plant eaters.

The pastoralists like the Masai and Fulani are a special case.  Actually they consume more plant foods than early observers thought.

Quoted from above link:

According to Johns, Maasai usually consume meat with or as soup, using 28 different herbs to make the soups, using the herbs in levels that make the food bitter. They also add a dozen plants to milk to prepare a tea-like beverage called orkiowa. Such use of herbs occurs universally.



Also to obscure the argument between vegans/meat eaters don't forget that vegans often use animals even though they don't eat them.  I, a vegan vegetarian, have at various times had horses, bantums, ducks, goats.  Even still I have rabbits in addition to my two dogs.  The rabs make a big contribution to the fertility of my gardens.
 
                    
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That's awesome, wombat.  That's been the thrust of my whole discourse in this thread.  Animals on a farm create a true polyculture and are important to cycling nutrients, and you don't have to eat them to get the benefits of having them around. 
 
paul wheaton
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Tel,

How much grass do you eat? 

Joel's systems are very grass intensive and his systems for havesting beef require much less work than your standard organic practices. 

BTW:  I've read all of Joel's books.  He's a genius.

My point is that I think that if we work Joel Salatin's work into the picture of what one can purchase .... and we are talking about the number of acres that are used to grow what one eats but what one can buy .....  I wonder if an omni might actually consumer fewer acres.  After all, the vegan's food is all coming from row crops.    And the folks growing those row crops are not gonna farm a lot of land that can, effectively, be grazed. 

So if you want to limit the comparison to only land that can be used for row crops, then I see the vegans pulling ahead (using fewer acres), but not by all that much. 

Now if you wanna talk about improving the soil or better carbon sequestration, I think the omni is gonna win.

....  the point of this whole thread is that it is not cut and dried.  It is debatable.  Hence the word "dilemma" in the title.


 
tel jetson
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How much grass do you eat?



I don't eat a lot of grass.  hardly any.  unless you count the seeds, I eat a fair amount of those.

Joel's systems are very grass intensive and his systems for havesting beef require much less work than your standard organic practices.



standard organic beef practices or standard organic produce practices?

My point is that I think that if we work Joel Salatin's work into the picture of what one can purchase .... and we are talking about the number of acres that are used to grow what one eats but what one can buy .....  I wonder if an omni might actually consumer fewer acres



that's what I think we're trying to figure out.  I did a rough calculation of how much beef Joel Salatin produces on an acre and was hoping somebody else might try to do a comparable calculation for veggies, or point us to some established statistics.  came up with enough beef for four average US-ians or sixteen Marinas on one Polyface acre.  the energy that beef would provide is pretty minimal, though, so there's still got to be a lot of Calories consumed.  Marina's estimated beef portion would provide 39.4 Calories/day, and the average US-ian's 157.6 Calories.  a lot of nutrient in that beef, but not much energy.  I'm still going to have to eat a lot of fat or carbohydrate to get the Calories I need in a day, and that could come from animals or plants or fungus.  I'm sure there are some errors in the numbers I used, but I think I got to a reasonable approximation.

After all, the vegan's food is all coming from row crops.



why's that?  why compare Joel Salatin's model, which is roughly the cutting edge of awesomeness in ecological livestock, to plain old humdrum row crops?  there are plenty of plants to eat that don't need rows.  plenty of fungus to eat.  there are thousands of posts on this website of yours mentioning quite a few of them.

And the folks growing those row crops are not gonna farm a lot of land that can, effectively, be grazed.



there's plenty of land that could be used well for either.

Now if you wanna talk about improving the soil or better carbon sequestration, I think the omni is gonna win.



you might be right.  for some land, you almost certainly are right.  I would bet my britches that this isn't the case for all land.  I think brittle climates definitely build soil better with periodic and intense large animal impact.  brittle environments account for a lot of the land mass.  not brittle climates build soil just fine without that impact, probably do better without it.  not brittle environments also account for a lot of land.  add a little human input in the form of composting, mulching, hugelkultur, et cetera, and that soil will build even faster.

So if you want to limit the comparison to only land that can be used for row crops, then I see the vegans pulling ahead (using fewer acres), but not by all that much.



but why?  is this just a feeling you have, or have you done a comparison?  my feeling, after doing a few calculations and having a modicum of experience (albeit on a small scale), is that the vegan is going to come out way ahead in terms of area used.  and I think we've got to compare the best ground for growing food plants to the best ground for growing livestock for this to be meaningful.  if we're just comparing a particular piece of ground used in different ways, it's going to be a different answer for each piece of ground.  which is my point.

the point of this whole thread is that it is not cut and dried.  It is debatable.  Hence the word "dilemma" in the title



sure, it's debatable, but that doesn't mean there isn't an answer.  we may not figure out what the truth is, but I think the truth still exists.

BTW:  I've read all of Joel's books.  He's a genius.



right on.  I would add that he is a very nice guy, funny, patient, and generous with his time (though he's generally compensated for it).  I especially like that he's spent time running numbers with conventional Midwest corn farmers and convinced some of them they would be much better off quitting corn and grazing their land.  those folks really need to hear The Good News.  the first time I met him, he had just told a cafeteria full of small-scale producers to ignore Department of Agriculture regulations if they didn't make sense, much to the chagrin of government officials in the room and the extension agents who had invited him to speak.

so, who's going to run some numbers for vegetable-matter-only land?  how about the numbers for the omnivore's vegetable matter to supplement the meat?  how about numbers for meat other than beef?  milk?  eggs?
 
paul wheaton
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I said: "Joel's systems are very grass intensive and his systems for havesting beef require much less work than your standard organic practices."

You said:

standard organic beef practices or standard organic produce practices?



Good catch.  I'm talking about standard organic product practices.

why compare Joel Salatin's model, which is roughly the cutting edge of awesomeness in ecological livestock, to plain old humdrum row crops?



Because that is what is available in grocery stores.

but why?  is this just a feeling you have, or have you done a comparison?

 

I'm gonna go with rough guesses based on experience and in what I have read.  And I think I'm pretty well read. 

I also live in a region that is pretty heavy on the mountains and scrubby land.  Land that goes from scrubby to lush meadow shortly after you pulse some grazers on it.

And that reminds me:  I wonder how much diesel fuel per acre is run on Joel's place vs. an organic row cropping outfit?

it's going to be a different answer for each piece of ground.  which is my point.



I agree with that.  It's complicated.

sure, it's debatable, but that doesn't mean there isn't an answer.  we may not figure out what the truth is, but I think the truth still exists.



It sounds like a lot of research.

so, who's going to run some numbers for vegetable-matter-only land?  how about the numbers for the omnivore's vegetable matter to supplement the meat?  how about numbers for meat other than beef?  milk?  eggs?



I think the person with the most passion in this space won't be able to stop themselves. 

 
tel jetson
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[quote author=paul wheaton]Because that is what is available in grocery stores.

that makes sense.  forgot about that part of the discussion.  tree crops are also regularly available in grocery stores.  I'll do a quick calculation for a tree crop and a row crop.

peaches: the institute of Vienna tried out some peaches and nectarines for suitability to organic production in Austria.  the variety that came out on tops produced 1 kg/cm[sup]2[/sup].  that works out to about 90,000 lbs/acre.  that's a lot of peaches.

leeks: a leek grows well with about one square foot to itself, including room between rows for planting/harvesting/cultivating.  an acre is 43,560 ft[sup]2[/sup].  the leeks I grow tend to be right around 1 lb at harvest.  that's 43,560 lbs/acre of leeks.  105 days is a typically growing season for a leek, which leaves more than two thirds of the year to grow other things on that acre, whether that be cover crops, green manure, or another food crop.
 
                    
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How many peaches or leeks do you have to eat before you get 100 calories?  And how many of those are going to be anything but sucrose? 
 
tel jetson
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How many peaches or leeks do you have to eat before you get 100 calories?  And how many of those are going to be anything but sucrose?



0.56 lbs of peaches.  that's roughly two small peaches.  0.36 lbs of leeks.

of 8.39 grams of sugars in 100 grams of peaches, 4.76 g is sucrose, 1.95 g is glucose, 1.53 g is fructose, and the remainder is galactose and maltose.  there's also some protein and lipid, though not a lot.

it's surprising to me that leeks are denser in energy, protein, and lipids than peaches.

how about lentils?  the first info I found was for dry land lentil yield using organic practices in North Dakota: 1000 lbs/acre.  that's 258 lbs/acre of protein.  the numbers we used for beef give 77.68 lbs/acre of protein.  that's close enough that the ease of production probably swings in favor of beef in comparison to lentils if we're after protein.

walnuts: average US yield is around 1.4 tons or 2800 lbs/acre.  that's 426 lbs of protein and 8,300,000 Calories/acre.  pastured beef gave us 348,000 Calories/acre.

almonds are higher in protein, lower in lipids than walnuts.  looks like it would be hard to beat nuts.  they have deep roots, they build soil, food falls from the sky.  too bad they're so gd expensive.
 
paul wheaton
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When exploring tree crops, I am shocked when I visit an orchard and they are tilling around the trees - all in an effort to be more organic. 



 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I want to once again express my enthusiasm for sweet-pit apricots.

When processing almonds, you throw out the fruit. When eating peaches, you throw out the pit.

It seems like the right sort of variety could optimize on calories per space, just by eliminating that sort of waste.
 
tel jetson
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I want to once again express my enthusiasm for sweet-pit apricots.



I've got a couple of these planted.  haven't gotten any fruit yet, but I'm expecting some this year.

I expect the fruit and nut will both be less than amazing compared to single purpose trees, but I'll hope to find out otherwise.
 
paul wheaton
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sweet pit fruit:  any chance you guys can start a new thread in the permaculture forum?

 
tel jetson
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paul wheaton wrote:
sweet pit fruit:  any chance you guys can start a new thread in the permaculture forum?



done

paul wheaton wrote:
When exploring tree crops, I am shocked when I visit an orchard and they are tilling around the trees - all in an effort to be more organic. 



that's a good point.  I've been to commercial orchards that use much better practices, but there is no way for the consumer to know that without visiting or having a conversation.  this is lamented elsewhere, but things like this just aren't part of food labeling right now.

folks have also pointed out that polyculture produce isn't widely available.  not long ago, meat raised in a thoughtful and regenerative way wasn't available either.  customers asked for it and retailers responded and a market was created.  the same thing can happen for plant food.  quite a few of us on this forum are in a position to act as producers of polyculture food for retail outlets, and very nearly all of us are in a position to make requests to retailers as consumers, even if we don't actually shop at grocery stores or produce markets.  might take a while, but it seems like a pretty good idea, so let's do it.
 
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marina phillips wrote:
Vegetarians can get all the easily digestible B vitamins they need from home made tempei. 



Unfortunately those B Vitamins are usually analogs, which block true B12 and are not bioavailable.
[ftp=ftp://http://www.westonaprice.org/Vitamin-B12-Vital-Nutrient-for-Good-Health.html]http://www.westonaprice.org/Vitamin-B12-Vital-Nutrient-for-Good-Health.html[/ftp]
 
                    
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Kristen, that link isn't workin for me, but our internet has been goofy the last few days.  I'm an avid reader/fan of the Westin Price website but haven't come across that article yet. 

My understanding of the tempeh thing is that it's the microbial activity making the b vitamins, in which case I don't see how they wouldn't be available as these are the same microbes with which our guts have spent centuries evolving.  But I'm interested in the article! 
 
tel jetson
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as I understand it, B[sub]12[/sub] in tempeh comes from soil-borne bacteria, not bacteria in our guts.  B[sub]12[/sub] in animal products is produced by similar bacteria, but they reside in the digestive bits of herbivores.  it's easy to imagine how these bacteria moved from dirt into stomachs.

same good B[sub]12[/sub] either way because the same, or closely related, organisms are producing it.

and your computer isn't the problem, the link is.  try this.
 
Kristen Lee-Charlson
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marina phillips wrote:
My understanding of the tempeh thing is that it's the microbial activity making the b vitamins, in which case I don't see how they wouldn't be available as these are the same microbes with which our guts have spent centuries evolving.  But I'm interested in the article! 



Perhaps a better explanation here:
"Additionally, claims are made in vegan and vegetarian literature that B12 is present in certain algae, tempeh (a fermented soy product) and Brewer's yeast. All of them are false as vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods. Brewer's and nutritional yeasts do not contain B12 naturally; they are always fortified from an outside source.

There is not real B12 in plant sources but B12 analogues--they are similar to true B12, but not exactly the same and because of this they are not bioavailable. It should be noted here that these B12 analogues can impair absorption of true vitamin B12 in the body due to competitive absorption, placing vegans and vegetarians who consume lots of soy, algae, and yeast at a greater risk for a deficiency.

Some vegetarian authorities claim that B12 is produced by certain fermenting bacteria in the lower intestines. This may be true, but it is in a form unusable by the body. B12 requires intrinsic factor from the stomach for proper absorption in the ileum. Since the bacterial product does not have intrinsic factor bound to it, it cannot be absorbed."

From Myth #2 from the Myths of Vegetarianism at the WAPF web site. It is referenced there as well.
 
                    
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I said it's from bacteria that have been evolving WITH our guts, not necessarily in our guts.  Sorry, but I just want to be clear about what I said. 

Thank you for posting this article as apparently what I read before about the availability in tempeh is indeed not true.  And absorbing B12 is pretty complicated. 

"B12 from animal food enters the stomach as part of animal proteins and must first be liberated by pepsin and hydrochloric acid. Free B12 then attaches to R-protein, which is released from the salivary cells and parietal cells (the same cells that release hydrochloric acid). To be absorbed efficiently, B12 must attach to a protein called intrinsic factor (IF) which is also secreted in the stomach. This cannot happen until the R-protein complexes are broken down by pancreatic enzymes in the small intestine. B12 then binds with the intrinsic factor and proceeds through the gut to the lower portion of the small intestine, where the intrinsic factor-B12 complex attaches to cell receptors, a process that involves calcium."

So, even if you eat lots of animal products, you can have problems absorbing B12 if you're deficient in any number of things. 

And I thought this was interesting:

"The body stores considerable B12 in the liver. Thus a delay of 5-10 years may separate the beginning of a vegetarian diet (or absorption problems) and the onset of deficiency symptoms. Interestingly, the body can recycle over 75 percent of the B12 it uses.16 Used B12 is excreted in bile and then reabsorbed in the small intestine by the same complex process described earlier. Some people have a more efficient recycling system than others and hence can go longer on a vegetarian diet without signs of deficiency. However, more B12 is excreted in the presence of high levels of fiber, a common feature of vegetarian diets.17"
 
                        
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I noticed the discussion here about B12 deficiencies for vegetarians.

I became vegetarian back in the days when people thought you had to eat complementary proteins -- so many beans and so many grains or you would develop a protein deficiency on a vegetarian diet.  In this case -- the theory simply did not match the facts.  Vegetarians simply do not become protein deficient.  In fact no one does unless starving people are fed large amounts of corn which was the basis of korshiwakor (sp???) in Africa.

It is also true that vegetarians simply do not develop B12 deficiency - pernicious anemia.
It simply doesn't happen.  I have been vegetarian for more than 30 years.  I have never had any kind of nutrient deficiency.  I don't drink milk.  Recent tests for calcium absorption show no calcium abnormalities - no arthritis, etc. etc.

There is a discussion here.

http://www.pamrotella.com/health/b12.html

Being a vegetarian is a very healthy lifestyle.  It may not be one that you would choose, but health concerns should not be the reason.
 
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tel wrote:
phe average amount of beef eaten in the U.S. in 2005 was 66.1 lbs/year



   Wowza. That is a LOT of Big Macs! I assume that people who don't eat a lot of fast food (eat mostly quality meat) eat a lot less than that - I myself eat at most 20 lbs per year.

    Anyways, my understanding is that the role of animals in permaculture is making efficient use of resources no readily usable by humans, such as bad fruit, scraps, bugs, etc. This makes a more efficient use of available resources plus speeds up the composting process.
 
tel jetson
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Kirk Hutchison wrote:
    Anyways, my understanding is that the role of animals in permaculture is making efficient use of resources no readily usable by humans, such as bad fruit, scraps, bugs, etc. This makes a more efficient use of available resources plus speeds up the composting process.



add pest animals and grasses and forbs to your list.  nothing wrong with your understanding of animals in permaculture, but the discussion here has been mostly about what is available for purchase.  since food produced in a permaculture context is still very rare even in the most granola of granola grocery stores, we've been trying to work out whether omnivores or vegetarians get to claim the least-land-required prize.

marina phillips wrote:
I said it's from bacteria that have been evolving WITH our guts, not necessarily in our guts.  Sorry, but I just want to be clear about what I said.



apologies, Marina.  I was reading assumptions into what you wrote and got you wrong.  what you actually said is, as is frequently the case, right on.

I am, however, skeptical of the Weston A. Price Foundation as an authority on human nutrition.  I am very much on board with a lot of what they're about, but they have an agenda to push, and the scholarship they choose to cite reflects that agenda.  I also can't claim to be an authority, but judging from my brief survey of easily available literature, the mechanisms of B12 synthesis and absorption (which Weston A. Price presents as an open and closed case) are very much less than settled by researchers.

and if science isn't your religion and researchers aren't your priests, there are plenty of reasonable intuitive arguments to be made for any of the several sides of that particular argument.  pick whichever one suits you, but be honest about it and don't claim you came to it by pure empiricism.

my personal experience with folks eating an entirely vegetarian diet is of people who were very well in touch with their bodies.  I am woefully ignorant of all but the most obvious signals my body sends me, but my vegan friend seems to know exactly what her body wants at any time, whether it's rest, exercise, more iron, more fat, et cetera.  she's never had trouble doing that without animal products or supplements.  I've known her since 2001, and she quit animals at least ten years before that.

wombat wrote:
I became vegetarian back in the days when people thought you had to eat complementary proteins -- so many beans and so many grains or you would develop a protein deficiency on a vegetarian diet.  In this case -- the theory simply did not match the facts.  Vegetarians simply do not become protein deficient.  In fact no one does unless starving people are fed large amounts of corn which was the basis of korshiwakor (sp???) in Africa.



reminds me of my brief career selling my blood plasma.  before each draw, there was a quick blood test to determine, among other things, the amount of protein in my blood.  each time, I was borderline too high.  the gal who tested me the first time was really surprised I ate vegetarian.  she asked if I ate a lot of beans or tofu, which I didn't.  I've always been rather less than conscientious about eating a balanced diet, but I do avoid processed food.  I'm sure I could do better, and I would like to, but I'm plenty healthy.  probably has something to do with the fact that what's available for free is generally fresh produce I grew and harvested.  being cheap and lazy pays off sometimes.
 
                        
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tel

I am, however, skeptical of the Weston A. Price Foundation as an authority on human nutrition.  I am very much on board with a lot of what they're about, but they have an agenda to push, and the scholarship they choose to cite reflects that agenda.  I also can't claim to be an authority, but judging from my brief survey of easily available literature, the mechanisms of B12 synthesis and absorption (which Weston A. Price presents as an open and closed case) are very much less than settled by researchers.



Ive noticed the cult forming around Weston Price on the net lately and Im a little surprised by the following my self.  (My training is in anthropology).  I used to have the Weston Price book which I gave to one of my students as a graduation present so I don't have it now as a reference.  Weston Price was a dentist who examined the dentition of children  in several ethnographic communities.  The book has many photographs of the teeth of children in 3d world countries.  He seemed to be amazed that people were healthy on traditional diets -- the diets they had before they were influenced by us!  He was especially impressed with the dental arches of native africans and phillapines  -- comparing them to our own inferior mouth architecture.  It is/was an interesting book -- but it hardly supports the cult following it is getting.

As for B12 it seems to be that its absorption is highly individualistic.  Some people pretty much get enough in infancy to last them their lifetimes.  Others -- including meat eaters -- can become deficient and develop anemia.  The reasons may hinge on diet, but more on the personal metabolism of the individual.

It really is a delusion though to perpetuate the myth that vegetarianism is somehow an unhealthy lifestyle--especially since more than half of the world's population is essentially vegetarian.

As far as the Weston Price cult is concerned, there seems to always have been a tendency for romanticising prehistoric man and native cultures.  The truth is man has always eaten whatever is available-- in much greater variety than  modern agricultural societies do.  It is this adaptability that got us where we are today.  But now we eat only a small fraction of what we traditionally did-- bits of this, bits of that.  There were No 500 calorie Big Macs in the bush.
 
                    
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Yep, very interesting, kind of fun to be a spectator sometimes.

 
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Paul wrote: I think there is a long list of reasons folks might choose to be a vegetarian.  All of them have to do with choice - an attempt at being a being with a brain that chooses to be a bit more evolved.



The crux of what Omnivore's Dilemma was about was making conscious choices about ALL of the food that enters our bodies, and especially the path it took to get to us.  Just as he made very thoughtful comments about vegetarianism, Pollan also went hunting.  I expected him to be very negative and was delighted to not see it so.

I love the taste of meat.  But I eat less of it now than 10 years ago, and I make conscious decisions about the origins and pathways it takes to get to my plate.  For years I've been thinking about the morality of meat, and I was coming to the conclusion that I would have to eventually take up hunting; as wonderful as grass fed, hormone free, biodynamic beef is, I am still divorced from the most important step--the transformation from living animal to edible flesh.  The kill

I still haven't gone hunting, because I'm not sure how to get started (I have no family or friends who hunt).  But it seems to me that, from an ethical standpoint, I either have to harvest the meat I eat (in much the same way as one might harvest a plant or fungi), or give up meat, though not necessarily milk or eggs.  Does anyone know where I might go to get that guidance?
 
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You might need to find a hunter and ask them to instruct you. A ho library of books on hunting, skinning, and gutting your rabbit won't prepare you for what to do once you have killed and the kill hits you in the conscience. You have to end its life, bleed it, separate it from its fur, and cut it and remove its inner organs all the while seeing this dead creature and smelling things that smell nothing like a package of hamburger.

If you use a 22 rifle then i have found that it is best to target practice before you go out and have an animal in front of you. My dad wouldn't let me use a shot gun as he believed that it wasn't sporting. Also a shot gun tears up a lot of the meat.

A head shot is best for small game and wastes less meat.

 
tel jetson
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if you want to ensure that you'll be both sporting and humane, sneak up on your quarry and shoot it in the forehead with a bolt gun.  purity.

note that this will also ensure that you never have to deal with the unpleasant parts ronie mentioned.  because you won't ever kill anything.  though my great uncle did kill a deer with a claw hammer, once, so maybe you'll get lucky.  it had been nibbling his filbert trees.

the turn this discussion has just taken seems to be worthy of a new thread.
 
Daniel Zimmermann
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Why?  Meat is part of omnivore, isn't it?  And I haven't even mentioned fishing.
 
tel jetson
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Antibubba wrote:
Why?  Meat is part of omnivore, isn't it?  And I haven't even mentioned fishing.



I think you'll get more information/advice if you start a thread specifically about learning to hunt.
 
Daniel Zimmermann
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That's a good idea, tel, but I'm still focusing on hunting within the context of deliberate choices.
 
tel jetson
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Antibubba wrote:
I'm still focusing on hunting within the context of deliberate choices.



right.

well, I like your desire to take responsibility for your food.

turns out that a lot of the animals humans like to eat also like to eat the plants that humans like to eat.  in my experience, if you build yourself a lovely forest garden, the game will come to you.  try not to use firearms in populated places, though.

mildly humorous: I know a long-time vegan who shoots deer that trespass in his garden.  you would recognize his name if I mentioned it.
 
Daniel Zimmermann
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Does he at least donate the meat?
 
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